Speeches

Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at Hindi Centres Day at 05.30 pm on Saturday, 24 July 2010 at Republic Cultural Centre, Republic Polytechnic

Mr S Tiwari,
President, Hindi Society,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

INTRODUCTION

I am pleased to join you this evening to celebrate Hindi Centres Day. This is a joyful celebration and one that is richly immersed in the culture and tradition of the Hindi- speaking community. That we have diverse groups, each celebrating different occasions and yet sharing common bonds as Singaporeans highlights a vibrant facet of Singapore’s multi-cultural society.

GROWING POPULARITY OF THE HINDI LANGUAGE

Mr Tiwari tells me that he has noticed a rise in recent years in the number of Malay and Chinese youths being drawn to Hindi pop culture. This is, no doubt, a testament to the burgeoning popularity of Bollywood. At the same time, I am pleased to learn that there has also been a growing interest in learning the Hindi language among our non-Hindi speaking friends. The Hindi Society has conducted five Hindi courses for non-Hindi speaking adults so far this year, and I am told that they have proved to be very much in demand.

The reasons given for wanting to learn Hindi are varied. For some, it is simply so that they can better understand the lyrics of popular songs. Beyond its cultural role however, many recognise that Hindi is an economic asset, especially with the rise of India. We in Singapore are fortunate that our multi-racial and multi-cultural make-up provide us with a unique advantage of having communities with natural ties of language and culture with major growth centres of the world.

Recognising the important role of mother tongue language in preparing our young for a globalised future and strengthening our identity as an open, diverse and cohesive society, the Ministry of Education has been providing greater support to the teaching and learning of the five non-Tamil Indian Languages (NTILs) - Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, and of course, Hindi. These are being offered in addition to the three official languages – Malay, Chinese and Tamil. We have, for instance, provided for the NTILs to be part of the national examinations since the early 1990s and over the years, worked closely with the NTIL communities to put in processes to recognise NTIL grades for level-to-level progression in our schools. In addition, MOE provides funding support of close to S$1.5 million annually to such NTIL groups as the Hindi Society to help defray part of the cost of providing instruction.

TRIBUTE TO THE HINDI SOCIETY AND HINDI CENTRES

I am pleased to note that the Hindi Society continues to grow from strength to strength in its efforts to provide ample opportunity for our students to study Hindi in our primary and secondary schools through its Parallel Hindi Programme. With four more schools joining the programme this year, we now have a total of 53 schools offering Hindi classes. This is in addition to the seven Hindi Centres located around the island so that children can attend Hindi classes at centres close to their homes.

To further encourage students to use the Hindi language, the Hindi Society has also started a number of initiatives. These include the launch of a Hindi Reading Programme, in which a library of Hindi picture books was built for the use of primary school pupils; the organisation of a Hindi literary festival, during which students participated in poetry recitations and debates; as well as other creative language activities. Aimed at enhancing proficiency in the use of Hindi, these activities equip students with the skills to use Hindi in real-life settings and for communication.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I would like to commend the Hindi Society for its involvement in community causes – these include donations to SINDA’s Project Give, which provides bursaries to low-income families, as well as for the restoration of Kampong Siglap Mosque. The Hindi Society also completed the rebuilding and restoration of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial and Library. This was a major undertaking for the Hindi Society and I would like to congratulate them on a job well done.

In closing, I would like to commend the Hindi Society for their dedication and hard work in enabling students in Singapore to study Hindi, and to wish the Society every success in its efforts in the coming years.

Thank you.